Even though the Union Square area makes up less than 1 percent of The City’s built land area, it packs a powerhouse punch. (Courtesy photo)

Preserving the heart of San Francisco

Union Square Business Improvement District, one of the city’s first seeks renewal

We are a steady hand that guides the busiest district in San Francisco.

As front-line stewards, we keep our community clean and safe. We are uniquely flexible, successfully testing new and innovative, community-driven initiatives that are hyper-local in their approach and ultimately support a forward-looking local government.

Two decades ago, an enthusiastic group of businesses, residents, and property owners got together with city leaders and floated an idea: if we had more ownership over our districts, and worked collaboratively across sectors, we could improve public service delivery. The Union Square Business Improve District became that flagship, and Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) now dot the landscape of San Francisco. With 17 locally-focused organizations stretching from Castro to Yerba Buena, and Japantown to Ocean Avenue, BIDs and CBDs work alongside community and in coordination with local government to improve the quality of life of our mixed-use neighborhoods.

The Union Square BID has long been the go-to organization quietly maintaining our city’s most visited downtown area. We are the model for public-private partnership, delivering critical services beyond the government baseline. As stakeholders who make up this organization’s Board, we can’t imagine what this area would look like without it, and we are willing to put our money where our mouth is to ensure that it continues to thrive in the years to come.

There’s no doubt about it: Union Square is the heart of San Francisco. An engine for jobs, landmark for commerce, and our historic centerpiece. Our district spans Market Street to the Chinatown Gates, and the hotels along Taylor to the Kearny Street shops. We represent our city to the world. We are its eyes and ears, its sights and sounds.

The Union Square BID removed over 572,000 lbs. of trash and addressed 46,000 quality of life issues in 2018. Even though the Union Square area makes up less than 1 percent of The City’s built land area, it packs a powerhouse punch. Union Square generates over one-third (34 percent) of The City’s sales of general consumer goods. Additionally, the total assessed value of properties in Union Square is $6.2 billion and generates 13 percent of The City’s total sales tax revenue. Union Square also has a strong workforce with over 38,000 local employees in this economic center, primarily in retail and consumer services.

To sustain this iconic area, we must invest in it. In 2019, the Union Square BID will seek renewal. We are presenting to our members and The City, a plan for increased budget to enhance our service levels. This process has brought a spirit of engagement, an outpouring of support, and the shared understanding that in order to continue doing right by our community, our resources must keep pace.

It’s no secret that San Francisco faces complex challenges. People who visit Union Square encounter visible quality of life issues on our streets and The City is risking the continued loss of large conventions and visitors. We believe that by leveraging proactive solutions like BIDs and CBDs, we will tackle these challenges and maintain the important tax revenues The City depends on.

Our ambassadors are your ambassadors. A helping hand with a smiling face serving merchants, visitors and connecting those most vulnerable to wraparound services. We collect trash, power-wash sidewalks, and keep this area sparkling. With private funds, we field a robust security camera network, sharing video with law enforcement, and paying for extra police officers to walk our district that keep everyone safe. Activating alleys and backstreets and designing our public realm, we weigh-in on important policies for our members, and promote events like Winter Walk that have become a favorite seasonal destination.

The future is bright for Union Square and our members have spoken: join us in voting “YES” to renew the Union Square BID and devote the necessary resources on par with the important role that we play in planning for the future.

Co-signed by Wes Tyler, General Manager of the Chancellor Hotel & USBID Board President Julie Taylor, Executive Vice President, Retail Services Group, Colliers International.

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